On the south side of Duluth, just west of St-Hubert, there sits a bright wooden façade belonging to a seemingly quaint, classy restaurant that currently has no distinguishing signage apart from a small menu posted to the right of the large windows. Depending on the time of day, Duluth street may be empty, and the scene inside this restaurant may even strike you as desolate, from the sidewalk. “They mustn’t serve anything interesting,” you’ll say, as you put your sunglasses back on, sweep your hair back and continue on your way. Ahem. Looks can be deceiving.
In fact, you’ve just peeked into the most renowned, beast-of-a-restaurant on the Island of Montreal: Au Pied de Cochon (or, en Anglais, ‘At the Foot of the Pig’ – which is where you will forever worship after eating a single morsel off their menu).
Let there be no misconceptions: this is not a place for vegetarians, anyone ‘on a diet’, or weaklings. Someone may need to roll you home afterwards, and as the title of this review suggests, you may end up in a food-induced coma whereby you try to watch Grey’s Anatomy, but actually pass out face-down on your duvet at 8pm.
Au Pied de Cochon is not very large (though mirror-lined walls disguise this well) and the dining room contains a handful of large tables, the scene is arguably suited more for couples and those who wish to sit at the long bar. The restaurant’s alcohol holdings are expansive – upon arriving, you can literally order any drink, from a sex-on-the-beach to a scotch-on-the-rocks to a bottle of $1000 wine. During my visit, my three co-diners ordered beer which arrived in frosted glass mugs. Water glasses are refilled instantly (almost too often, but let’s not nit-pick quality service), and baguette halves are also restocked to your table as quickly as you can devour them.
Now, the menu itself is, admittedly, daunting as hell. During our visit, the waitress listed the specials in very great detail, for almost three minutes straight. Pork plates, lamb for two, something about a halibut BLT and we were all just gaping with our mouths open. In the end, a friend and I each ordered the Confit Lamb Shank ($26), with the PDC mashed potatoes ($7.50 – mashed potatoes made with CHEESE CURDS slash I love Quebec) and French fries ($4.75 – fried in duck fat). My bravest co-diner ordered the PDC Melting Pot ($20.50), a small casserole dish filled with pork chop, pork stomach, regular sausage and blood sausage (pictured), all bathed in a spectacular sauce. My fourth tablemate opted for the Foie Gras (goose or duck liver) Burger ($39) and a regular poutine ($7), though he seriously considered ordering the Foie Gras Poutine ($23), among the other ten fois gras menu items. Shout out to Canadian migratory birds, and our credit cards.
As a group, we ordered the Foie Gras Comesquis appetizer ($3.50) – essentially, two small wooden coasters were delivered to our table, each containing two deep fried cubes of foie gras (pictured). The waitress inquired if we knew HOW to eat this appetizer; my quizzical look (of fear?) encouraged her to continue, and she explained that we must put the entire cube in our mouths, that we mustn’t attempt to ‘take a bite’. As it turns out, I actually can’t describe the flavour explosion that this appetizer entails, nor why it is imperative to pop the whole thing in your mouth – you’ll have to visit to find out!
All of our plates arrived in a somewhat staggered manner, but when they did, we all settled into a meat-induced silence, sharing the odd bite of potato, pork or lamb, and consciously taking hefty breaks to digest and drink water. The lamb was perfectly tender, with a lentil-tomato sauce; the fois gras burger was massive and arrived with a dish of lemon water for sticky fingers. Everything was well-cooked and well-presented (except the French fries, which I found slightly ‘over-fried’, if that exists) and we were able to doggie-bag leftovers. For dessert (yes, the four of us managed to share a dessert – I must have a hollow leg or something), we ordered espressos, cappuccinos and the Pudding Chomeur, which was sweet and syrupy.
Notably, as we were leaving, on the 15-second walk from our table to the front door, we were thanked and saluted by six different staff members. I do love that. All in all, I understand perfectly why Au Pied du Cochon receives the level of acclaim it does – wonderful food and atmosphere, happy patrons and lots of meat are a naturally successful combination.
~ Tyler Yank